It’s not often a former NFL and NCAA Division I coach comes knocking on the door of a local high school wanting to coach youth football.
But, that’s what happened at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School.
Joe Vaughn spent the last seven seasons — from 2012 to 2018 — as an assistant strength and conditioning coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Before that, from 2006 to 2011, Vaughn served a similar role for NCAA Division I FBS (Football Ball Subdivision) University of Kansas – also his alma mater where he earned All-Big 12 and offensive team MVP honors playing center in the early 2000s.
The latest addition to his resume: Bishop McLaughlin Hurricanes head football coach.
Since exiting the Buccaneers franchise this offseason, the 36-year-old Wesley Chapel resident has continued training professional athletes at The Clinic, a sports and fitness performance center in Tampa. His clientele includes Carolina Panthers (and former Buccaneers All-Pro) defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, as well as current Buccaneers — linebacker Kwon Alexander, offensive tackle Demar Dotson and tight end O.J. Howard.
In addition to personal training, Vaughn figured it to be a prime opportunity to dive into the prep football ranks and help teach the game to youth — at a school where his friend and co-mentor, Rex Desvaristes, is the new athletic director.
“We got to talking and he wanted me to join his staff and I told him I would help him out, and it wound up just getting an interview for the head coaching job,” Vaughn said.
“It just came at the right time,” he said.
Vaughn was officially named Bishop McLaughlin’s new football coach on July 2, less than two months before the prep season gets underway.
Vaughn’s hiring “was a no-brainer,” said Desvaristes, who previously served as athletic director at Citrus Park Christian School in Tampa.
The Hurricanes athletic director explained Vaughn “stood out” from other applicants in the coaching search and interview process. He cited Vaughn’s experience and passion, combined with his football knowledge and teaching ability.
Said Desvaristes: “We wanted to see an improvement in our football program and I definitely think with Joe, it brings the energy to our school that we needed to jolt this football program and this athletics program in that direction. For him to be in our program, it’s a true blessing, so we’re excited to have him here.”
He continued, “At the end of the day, we want to be able to give these kids coaches like coach Vaughn — coaches that are able to teach them so they can learn. I think that’s what kids nowadays need, is somebody they can learn from who’s played the game, who’s coached the game at the highest level.”
Vaughn takes over a football program that has faced struggles in recent years.
The Pasco County private school finished 4-5 last season under former coach Tico Hernandez and hasn’t experienced a winning season since 2012, when the Hurricanes went 6-5 under coach Derrick Alexander, an ex-NFL defensive lineman who at one time worked in the Cleveland Browns front office.
Overall win-loss records aside, the new coach believes the program has tools in place to win — encouraged by what he’s seen in watching returning players’ game film from last year, from talent to effort levels.
“We’ve got a few athletes — I think more than a few athletes. The positive is the guys play pretty hard…and I can tell they care about football,” he said.
To put his spin on the program, Vaughn said he plans to instill “a winning mentality” and have the team “play within their skillset.”
“We’re going to be assignment sound,” the coach said. “We’re going to know what we can do, what we cannot do, we’re not going to overextend ourselves, and we’re going to stay simple, but focused, and I believe when you stay simple and you stay focused then you’re much more effective than when you’re trying to do something that’s not in your skillset or over the top.”
The coach said that all begins with hitting the weight room and getting back to the basic fundamentals of running, form tackling, ball pursuit and more.
“Once we do the little things, that’s building a foundation and then we can build on that,” he said.
Without venturing too deep into Xs and Os, Vaughn offered up a little glimpse into the style of play the Hurricanes will employ in 2019: “We’re going to run the ball at Bishop, our D-line’s going to come off the ball, those are our focus points right there. Coming off the ball, the other things will come.”
Meantime, in just a few short weeks on the job, the veteran NFL and college coach already feels comfortable in his new role. He pointed to the immediate embrace he’s received from school administration.
“I like how just everybody seems very supportive at Bishop,” Vaughn said. “It’s been a warm situation going into…so it just makes you want to do the very best that you can. I think winning programs also have great support systems, and I think Bishop has that, all around.”
Published July 31, 2019